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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Journées Modélisation de Paris

A conference “Journées Modélisation de Paris meet” on 3rd and 4th of June was arranged at the Chemistry Department of École nationale supérieure de chimie de Paris (ENSCP). It was immediately after I returned from India. I couldn't attend first day of the conference. But I decided to attend the second day.
First of all it was a friday, a relaxing day. With me returning from a holiday, away from work, a good way to get back to work. Secondly, one of my colleagues A had a presentation at the conference. She is an undergrad student from the United States of America spending one year in Paris under some scheme.
I was curious to visit the institute which is a home for some very old Nobel laureates like Charles Friedel of Friedel Craft reaction and Henri Moissan, one isolating fluorine and developing high temperature furnace.

The institute ENSCP is located near the Luxembourg station on RER B line. Presently Luxembourg is more famous among visitors for the senate of France, Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg garden) and the Palais du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Palace).
Returning to the subject, the venue being in the very heart of the city, I was wondering how I would reach the Institute. Although I had printed the route to reach the venue, one can easily get lost in the narrow alleys of Paris, once out of the undergrounds of metro.
The first presentation was scheduled at 9.30 a.m. and I got down at the Luxembourg station at 9.25 a.m., which obviously means I was late. I was just wondering how much time I would need to search a 114 years old Institute in an equally old jungle of buildings, when I saw A getting down from the train. That relieved me since I had information that she attended the previous day presentations. So, it was obvious to expect that she knows the way to the venue, which I initially felt correct because she directed me to take an unseen passage. I wonder about these narrow passages on most of the Paris RER stations. Most of these stations have one such passage where the heavy wind is blowing in opposite direction making you difficult to walk.
Anyway, we were out of this station and then A started searching something in her bag. I was just feeling the curiosity of what is coming out of the bag, when I saw a road map in her hand. Rather than making a move on road, she started reading the map and then looking at the directions given at the roadside. I don't why I decided to follow her believing that she is using map just to be on safer side, because all the roads in Paris almost look the same.
Well moving with a pace that only a stranger to the region can have, we finally reached the venue close to 10.00. But this was not the end of the search. According to A we had come to the back gate of the Institute and we will have to search the way to the hall of conference.
She entered very confidently in a building searching something. I guess finding nothing familiar, she finally asked somebody in her “US”ian French about the venue. It was then revealed that we had to enter some other building.
So we were back to the place where we started and looking for a new building to enter. But we were then fortunate to spot a board giving directions to the building. It was followed by more number of boards taking us very close to the hall. At one point, we were again stuck with a decision making situation between two passages. While I suggested taking the right passage, A opted the left one. The reason not being she was knowing the route, but locating a person who was present previous day and moving down the left passage.
We started following the person keeping some distance, with A in front and me at the end. It was a bridge kind of passage leading to a single closed door, which apparently to me looked like a door to a big hall. While crossing the door, the person looked behind checking who is following, stopped for a second and with some funny expression moved on. It was only on reaching the door that we realized it was men's restroom. I have never turned so instinctively by 180° in synchronization with anybody before in my life. For me it was more of a funny situation, for A, I don't know!
What more should you expect in a situation already full of tension of presenting your work in front of renowned scientist in the field. The situation was evident from all the things she was telling while coming to the venue from the station. How she could not sleep whole night, why she decided to wear total black dress and that too semi-formal (which I really don't know what exactly means). What kind of impression a 20 year old girl (yaa, she told me her age!) can make wearing a total black colored semi formal dress and how it is better than a 23 years old girl who presented previous day wearing a complete formal dress of mixed colors!! Well lets stop here. I can go on writing since a tensed person speaks a lot more otherwise than what he/she speaks in presentation.
Finally we reached the conference room (taking the right passage) and missing not one but two presentations. Just want to add here, the initial two presentations (which I missed) only were in English and all later presentations (which I attended) were in French!! Interestingly, all the slides were also made in such fashion that it hardly gave any clue about the subject (inspite of it related to science which knows no language). The presentation by A was in very fluent “US”ish French, with some slips to English at times. I might not have understood all of her presentation, but one thing it brought to me was why Americans are leading on all the fronts. Her work was no doubt interesting, but it was her attitude that attracted the attention of all the scientists. So much so that a vice president of a German company invited us to join him for lunch. The person P was an early days Scientist in our institute and told us many important aspects of research in computational field, in a short time of 2 hrs of lunch.
The lunch was followed by some more presentations (in French). While returning we peeped into the nearby Luxembourg garden to have a glimpse of the original and the oldest Statue of Liberty.
All in all it was an interesting conference. By the way, I actually had planned to discuss all the work discussed in the conference, but I guess it’s better to write a separate post for that.
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